Applause: For Whom Are You Clapping ?

Excerpt as is From Singing & Making Music : Issues in Church Music Today by Paul S. Jones.

Applause: For Whom are you clapping ?


To applaud means literally, ” to give praise ” { app – + -laud }, in worship our thoughts and actions are to be directed to the subject and the object of worship – God himself. Jehovah more than merits our praise, so applauding Him for his acts  or attributes in the context of worship can be reasonably defended. Clapping the hands while singing – Psalms 47:1 are biblical ideas. Actually it seems that at every positive biblical mention of clapping the hands, this activity is always linked with /God in praise. /otherwise, clapping has no biblical place in worship and obviously should not be directed at musicians, preachers, or babies as applause. It is likely that few genuine ” Clap offerings” are exclusively offered to God, although they may exist in the case of individuals, perhaps, more so than among the masses. Yet clapping does not appear to be an activity that the lord requested through Scripture. God does not require our affirmation , but he wants our Joyful song – which could  very well be accompanied by shouts and clapping and loud cymbals and other expressions of our delight in Him.

More often, in the context if worship, if we are honest, we applaud people with the hope of making them feel appreciated, to demonstrate our approval of the rendition or statement, or to show that we affirm the message of the music. Encouraging, approving are not wrong actions in and of themselves. But can we find other means of accomplishing these goals? In our cultural context , applause is the stuff of the theater , the concert stage, the comic routine, and the political speech.

With such strong associations for approval of a performance, clapping in worship is at it’s best, inappropriate. At worst, it is idolatrous. Yet most worshippers sitting in the pews each Sunday are not bothered by its inclusion in worship.

As a society, we applaud when we receive good news, hear a funny Joke, or express appreciation. In fact, it has become, so customary to clap that we instinctively applaud for almost anything we enjoy, When it comes to worship music, this response is most commonly witnessed at the end of a fast piece or one that concludes loudly and in a high tessitura. This is simply an un examined carryover from the entertainment carryover from the entertainment industry. We applaud in church because we have not thought much about why we do so. Instead, we have allowed our culture’s response to entertainment to gain a place where it does not belong – worse yet, we have allowed entertainment itself a place in the church.

In fact, we demand it. We build large stages, elaborate sound and lighting systems, props and scenery for dramatic productions. We have drama teams, mime, sermon- by – skit, movies, and more. Some install the alter-sized screens, put spotlights on the performers, have concession stands in the lobby, and over amplify both prerecorded and live band music in a service that is supposed to be about reverently approaching a holy God. We glamorize those with musical talent or dramatic gifts and allow the cult of celebrity to enter what should be a house of prayer. Pastors, musicians, and church leaders must address and change such things in their churches. If we do not, who can – or who will?


Musicians who recognize that their offerings in the context of worship ( indeed, in  all of life ) are solely for the Glory of God –  Soli Deo Gloria do not desire applause in worship. In fact, it probably troubles them and diminishes the joy of giving back some of what God has given them. A better response than applauding is simply to say to the musician, ” I thank God for how he has blessed me through you” or ” I appreciate you and pray for you” . Comments such as these are encouraging . The best response to music or other ministry that blesses you is to thank God for it and share your joy with others.

Worship is a serious activity. We must consider our actions. In worship, if we applaud someone other than God, our misdirected praise is idolatrous. If we receive as ours the praise that is due to him, we rob God of Glory that is his alone. Will our Jelous God bless such things stolen from Him? No, our songs and applause will be “noise” to him – an offering of stench rather than something sweet smelling.

As Donald Gray Barnhouse put in a brief statement in the Tenth Presbyterian Church bulletin on October 17, 1943

Church music can be anything from reverent worship of God to carnal exhibitionism, and musical quality may be anything from a joyful noise to an artistic  musical presentation. It goes without saying that a good voice is better than a bad one for church music, provided the hearts are equally yielded to the Lord. If the hearts are not yielded , the curse of unspiritual music is stated very definitely in the bible. It is hateful to the Lord. Of the many cantata and many an Easter day it might well be written, ” I hate, I despise your feast days.. Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs… ” ( Amos 5:21 , 23 )

Surely no Christian will want this to be said of him or her. And it can be just as true of the classical musician playing widor organ symphonies as the ” contemporary ” band playing the latest Maranatha or Hillsong praise chorus, We need to think about our position on applause in worship so that the glory due our God is solely directed to him. If this includes clapping as an act of worship vis-a-vis psalm 47:1, then it must be understood as such and offered that way.

Pastors and other Worship leaders can lead the congregation in responses appropriate to worship. ” Amen” ( Which means ” so be it ” ) is an affirming , biblical response, as is ” Praise God!” or some other God centered exclamation such as ‘ hallelujah ‘ ( which means ‘ Praise the Lord ‘ ) A biblical example appears in 1st Chronicles 16:36 , After David’s ” Song of thanks” we read, Then all the people said, ” Amen! “and praised the lord.”

Such ideas may warrant the occasional pastoral remark from the pulpit or a sentence or two in the church bulletin. When believers are taught and given spiritual rationale for a new action or the alteration of an existing action, they are generally responsive to it. Verbal responses may be distracting to others at times, so one should examine the value  of this activity in situations in which might be true. And even biblical responses can become rote after a time, so the occasional reminder or explanation for why something is done or not done in worship is an excellent idea

Singing & Making Music : Issues in Church Music Today – Paul S. Jones

Other scripture referenced in this chapter:

Psalm 47:1

Clap your hands, all you nations;
    shout to God with cries of joy

Psalm 98:8

Let the rivers clap their hands,
    let the mountains sing together for joy

Isaiah 55:12

You will go out in joy
    and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
    will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
    will clap their hands

As with any train of thought, I subject to you, be like the Bereans in Acts 17:11 – Examine each and every analogy to the standard of Gods word for – Sola Scriptura – Scripture alone.

1st Timothy 3:16-17

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

Above all, pray so that you may stand firm, not be swayed by every teaching that comes your way.

Ephesians 4:14-16

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

1st Thessalonians 1:11-12

With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. 12 We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ

Soli Deo Gloria.

//// Side Note: Useful links : ////

The book itself 

This blogpost.

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